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‘I’m no Ramaphosa henchman’ — President’s adviser slams critics as she takes over running women’s league

Says even past presidents appointed her to positions of responsibility

The ANCWL national task team national coordinator Maropene Ramokgopa briefs the media at Luthuli House in Johannesburg.
The ANCWL national task team national coordinator Maropene Ramokgopa briefs the media at Luthuli House in Johannesburg.
Image: Freddy Mavunda © Business Day

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s special adviser on international relations Maropene Ramokgopa has denied she was appointed to run the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) to do her boss’ bidding, saying even past presidents entrusted her with responsibility.

Ramokgopa’s appointment has been characterised as Ramaphosa’s consolidation of power at Luthuli House ahead of the ANC national conference in December.   

Speaking on Tuesday on the sidelines of a media briefing by the newly elected task team, led by former National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete, Ramokgopa said she had her own credentials.

“I have been with the league for a very long time, I’ve ran the secretary-general’s office of the ANCWL so it’s not a new thing for me. It’s not like I fell from the sky.

“My track record speaks for itself. I have my own credentials in the ANC, and the women’s league in particular,” she told TimesLIVE. 

Ramokgopa’s political career spans from the early 2000s. In 2006, at age 26, she was appointed executive mayor of a Northern Cape district municipality by former president Thabo Mbeki. She was one of the youngest mayors at the time.

In 2016, she said, former president Jacob Zuma appointed her to represent SA as the head of mission at the consulate general in Mumbai, India. The Mumbai office is one of SA’s biggest missions which deals with issues of trade and investment. She held the position  for four years. 

Ramokgopa said the criticism against her appointment was laughable.

“I was laughing again that I served in the national executive committee (NEC) of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) since 2008. In 2013 we were disbanded. Out of that entire disbanding of the NEC, [former] president Zuma took me alone to be in the national task team of the new ANCYL, to rebuild it. 

“This is not the first time I take up such a position. So, I don’t know if maybe I was an ally of Mbeki, or Zuma. I don’t know.

“It looks like presidents of the ANC somehow believe in me. Maybe I don’t talk too much. Besides being an ANCYL member, I was a provincial executive committee (PEC) member in 2008 while in my 20s. 

“I was a founding member of the young women’s desk. I wrote the concept document and that is why I was its first convener. Currently, I am a PEC member of the ANC in Limpopo,  where I was born.”

Ramokgopa was also manager and national working committee (NWC) coordinator of the ANCWL nationally in 2008 when basic education minister Angie Motshekga was its president.   

Regarding claims about endorsing Ramaphosa for a second term, Ramokgopa said: “I am not here to fight anyone’s battles, but to rebuild the organisation.”

She is among 44 members of the task team mandated to ensure the league’s structures are in good standing, and conferences are held in branches, regions and provinces to ensure its national conference is convened within a year. 

Convicted perjurer and former president of the ANCWL Bathabile Dlamini and secretary-general Meokgo Matuba are the only members of the disbanded structure who made it  in as additional members.

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